Muscle atrophy can have an adverse impact on your mobility. Several underlying health conditions or diseases can decrease muscle mass. As a result, you can experience wasting of muscles. One of the major reasons for the muscles wasting is the lack of physical movement or activity. It mainly affects people who are bedridden due to an injury or illness. So, you may find it difficult to move your arm or leg. The non-usage of the muscles in the arms or legs can lead to the condition. One of the common signs that indicate muscular atrophy is the muscles in the affected arm or leg appear smaller. But, the length remains the same.
The sedentary lifestyle or serious damage to the nerves supplying the muscle fiber can lead to the condition. Once you notice the signs, it is better to seek the doctor’s appointment. Your doctor can diagnose the problem immediately. It is possible to reverse the muscle atrophy in some cases. So, you need to seek medical advice to get a proper treatment plan. Following it can help you get back the mobility in your life. Read ahead to know in detail about the problem and the possible methods to prevent it.
What Is Muscle Atrophy?
The condition is also referred to as muscle loss, muscle wasting, muscle withering, or muscle catabolism. It results from muscle tissue loss. So, the interference of nerve signals to the muscle or the lack of muscle use can lead to the issue. Many underlying health conditions lead to the problem. It is important to determine the actual reason behind the muscle loss. It will help find the cure to overcome the problem with ease. Getting treatment will bring back the mobility in your body. Several issues can lead to the condition like:
Certain medical conditions can reduce mobility. When you suffer from such diseases, you can experience muscle atrophy. So, problems like autoimmune disease can trigger the issue. It causes joint inflammation making it difficult for you to move the limbs freely. One such disease that results in muscle wastage is rheumatoid arthritis.
Weakening Of Bones
Certain conditions in your body can make the bones weak and thin. Osteoarthritis is one of the main health problem leading to the weakness of bones.
When you suffer injuries, you tend to limit the use of the affected area. It can reduce muscle mass. So, the burns and broken bones can make you more susceptible to the problem.
Other than the above-mentioned issues, the age also plays an important role on the muscle atrophy. As you age, your bones have the tendency to become weak. It can result in muscle wastage.
Classification Of Muscle Atrophy
Depending on the exact cause of the problem, you can classify the muscle wastage into two major types:
It is the problem occurring due to the nerve problem. When you damage the nerve to a muscle, it fails to trigger muscle contraction. The muscle contraction is responsible for muscle activity. Without the muscle contraction, the body believes the muscle is useless. So, it recycles the muscles by breaking it down. It leads to muscle wasting. It is the severe form of atrophy that can appear suddenly. So, you need to maintain caution. Several diseases can contribute to the issue. Let’s see it in detail the common causes leading to the issue:
Spinal Cord Atrophy
It is the degeneration of the substances that form the spinal cord. It is a slowly progressing disease that can trigger muscle wastage. The common signs of the problem are numbness in the hands, weakness in hands or legs, and neck stiffness.
It affects the brain as well as your spinal cord. The diseases can result in weakness in your body. You also experience other issues like balance difficulties, lack of coordination, etc.
ALS (Atrophyamyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
It is another autoimmune nerve disorder resulting in muscle wastage. It causes the immune system to attack your nerves. So, it can lead to muscle atrophy, weakness, and tingling sensation. It is a severe problem that requires immediate medical attention. Ignoring the problem can eventually lead to paralysis.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
It is the condition caused when the major nerve to the hand gets compressed or squeezed. The condition can lead to weakness in the arms. Hence, the condition is also responsible for the muscle waste in hands.
It is the problem caused when poliovirus attacks your nervous system. It is the contagious diseases that affect children below five years of age. The condition can lead to muscle wastage in the legs.
The high levels of glucose in the bloodstream can affect the nerves. So, uncontrolled diabetes can affect its signals leading to atrophy of muscles. The condition mostly affects the nerves in the legs and hands.
As the name suggests, it happens when you stop using the muscles. In case of muscles, you either use it or lose it. When you stop using your muscle, the body may not spend energy on it. Energy is required to feed and maintain the muscles. So, without the energy, your body can break down the muscles. Once the muscles get recycled, it decreases in size. You also lose the strength of the muscle. Disuse atrophy is not severe. It is easy to rectify it with physical exercise and a good diet. The main cause of the problem is:
- Prolonged bed rest
- Reduce activity levels
- Joint Disorders (specifically osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis)
- Sedentary work form
The above-mentioned causes can reduce your muscle movement. With the decrease in the activity levels, your muscle can get wasted. The problem is easy to solve with resuming the physical activity.
Causes Of Muscle Atrophy
Apart from the cases discussed above, other reasons can result in the problem. So, the factors causing the muscle atrophy are:
Increase In Catabolic Rates
Some diseases can increase catabolic rates. Such catabolic conditions can result in muscle loss. It is due to the inactivity of the muscles. So, it promotes the muscle breaking. The diseases that can elevate the catabolic rates are:
- Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Kidney Failure
Lack Of Nutrition
When the body is deprived of nutrients, it can trigger muscle loss. Nutrients especially proteins form the building block of muscles. So, the lack of proteins and other nutrients can result in loss of muscle strength. Fasting, starvation or malnutrition can lead to the issue.
Prolonged Corticosteroid Treatment
When you use corticosteroids for a long time, it can result in muscle loss. It is due to the muscle protein synthesis reduction. So, it can lead to protein catabolism. As a result, you can experience muscle weakness.
The lack of protein in your body can trigger the condition. So, the disease can lead to muscle wastage.
It is the condition that elevates the acid production in the body. So, the increased acid levels can affect the kidneys. The problem can reduce protein synthesis leading to muscle atrophy.
Symptoms Of Muscle Atrophy
Depending on the underlying health problem, the symptoms may vary. So, you need to pay close attention to your body. The frequent symptoms of muscle wasting involve other body systems. You may observe weakness due to shrunken muscle mass. Apart from that, you can also observe other signs like:
- Muscle Thinning
- Balance Problems
- Difficulty Walking
- Memory Loss
- Muscle Pain
- Prone To Falls
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Tingling Sensation
- Numbness In Legs Or Arms
- Loss Of Muscle Coordination
- Weakness Of Extremities
- Facial Weakness
- Progressive Loss Of Movement
- Vision Problems
Risks Of Muscular Atrophy
Muscular atrophy can become a life-threatening condition in certain cases. Therefore, you need to seek treatment as soon as possible. It will help alleviate the symptoms. When you observe the symptoms, get medical assistance. If you ignore the problem, it can escalate. So, you can experience advanced signs like:
- Change in levels of alertness or consciousness. It can lead to unresponsiveness or passing out.
- Vision problems that occur suddenly. You can experience a change in vision, eye pain or loss of vision.
- Problem with speaking like garbled speech, inability to speak or slurred speech.
- Inability to move a body part (paralysis).
- A severe headache causing great agony.
- Sudden numbness or weakness on one body side.
Diagnosing Muscle Atrophy
The muscle wasting needs a precise diagnosis. So, you need to contact your doctor immediately. The doctor performs a clinical examination of the patients. Several tests can confirm the diagnosis. It also helps identify the underlying cause. The following tests can detect the issue with accuracy:
The radiological imaging tests can confirm the presence of the muscle wasting problem. the imaging tests like CT scan, MRI, X-Ray can provide your doctor with a clear image of the affected area. It also helps detect the spinal abnormalities leading to the atrophy. Another effective method is the PET scan (Positron Emission Tomography). The PET scan can shed light on the functional capacity of the affected muscle. DXA is another diagnostic test. The Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry offers the correct measurement of the bone mineral density. The reduced levels indicate skeletal muscle wasting.
Your doctor may order routine blood tests to know your physical condition. Specific blood tests can also confirm the presence of muscle wasting problem. So, your doctor can order the tests to get detailed information.
Electromyography And Nerve Conduction
Electromyography is nothing but the study to understand the electrical activity of the muscles. It helps to understand the problems with the muscle signals. The nerve conduction studies will help your doctor find the exact location of the problem.
Your doctor orders the biopsy of the muscle or nerves. It helps to diagnose the actual reason that triggers the issue.
Muscle Atrophy Treatment
No medical cure is available to completely overcome the neurogenic muscle atrophy problem. You can get treatment to reduce the adverse effects of the symptoms. So, the goal of the treatment is to ease the ill-effects and make you more comfortable. The following options can provide you relief:
- Oral Medications (Prednisone)
- Physical Therapy
- Ultrasound Therapy
- Use Of Accessories (Wheelchair, Braces, etc.)
With proper treatment, you can reverse disuse muscle atrophy. The following treatment methods can help you get back the mobility.
It is ideal for people who have muscle loss due to their progressing age. So, the testosterone supplements combined with load-bearing exercise can show best results. People in their old age can see improvement in their muscle strength. It is due to the positive effects of the supplements on the muscle-regenerating satellite cells. Therefore, the intake of supplements can improve the muscle fibers in older people.
Including physical exercise in your daily schedule can prevent diseases. It can also help overcome muscle wasting. So, physical exercise can alleviate and reverse some forms of muscle atrophy. You need to practice two types of exercises to prevent or treat the problem.
It is a very effective exercise to decrease muscle wasting. It enhances the production of proteins. So, it can aid in improving the muscle mass as well as strength. Practicing it is beneficial to elderly people. But, you need to consult your doctor or physical therapist before including it in your routine. The exercise makes your muscle to exert force against a physical resistance like weight, immovable object, water, etc.
It is the form of exercise that strengthens the cardiovascular health. Unlike resistance exercises, no weight or load is placed on your muscles. Therefore, performing it alone cannot prevent muscle atrophy. You need to combine it with resistance exercise to get effective results. The exercise can enhance oxygen distribution in the body. So, it improves the cell functioning and strengthens your heart.
Your doctor can prescribe a nutritional supplement for a speedy recovery. The nutritional supplement focus on providing inadequate nutrients in the body that promotes muscle mass. So, the doctor can prescribe two main types of supplements.
It can enhance the recovery after you become immobile for a certain period of time. Supplements can improve energy production. It also develops muscle mass. So, the inexpensive supplement can alleviate the problem. Seek the doctor’s assistance to get the precise information on the dose and the time to take it. It plays a crucial role in overcoming the problem.
Amino Acids Supplements
When you are in bedrest after an injury or muscle problem, exercising is not an option. Hence, the supplementation of the amino acid can improve protein synthesis. It helps to increase muscle mass. Though it is not as effective as exercise, you can opt it when you are taking complete bedrest. Combining supplementation with exercise can provide you with better results.
Preventing Muscle Atrophy
The condition can cause physical weakness. But, it is easy to prevent. You can take some steps to ensure the muscle wasting does not affect your life. So, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Becoming physically active will keep you disease free. In some cases, people recovering from illness may find it difficult to resume physical activity. When you are getting treatment for cancer, stroke or infection, you feel weak. Some neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis can also pull you back from becoming active. But, understand that the lack of activity can increase your risk of muscle wasting. So, to preserve your physical capabilities, you need to stay active as much as possible. Take small steps at first. You can gradually increase the intensity of the physical activity to prevent the problem.
When you have an underlying neurological condition, you need to participate in physical therapy. The rehabilitation will help you recover your strength. Therefore, well-planned activities can regain muscle strength. The scheduled therapy sessions can help you recover swiftly and regain your mobility.
The passive movements can make you ready for the actual therapy sessions. You can contact your therapist to undergo the passive movement. So, you can move your arms or legs with the help of your doctor. It is the ideal method for people who have trouble moving after the stroke. When you have difficulty moving on your own, passive movement is ideal. So, it prevents muscle atrophy.
Including a good diet will ensure you get all the required nutrition. The necessary nutrition will prevent muscle wasting. So, with proper nutrition, you can regain the size and shape of your muscles.
The pointers not only prevents the atrophy, but it also restricts other health problems. When you remain in bed for a long time, you can get bed sores. It is the result of the prolonged pressure on a particular part of your body. The activities can prevent sores, blood clots, muscle stiffness, and nerve damage. So, it can reduce the adverse effects of prolonged inactivity. The lack of movements mostly affects your arms and legs. So, methods like passive movement can help you overcome other complications.
Muscle atrophy is reversible with proper care and treatment. The problem does not occur overnight. So, you need to spend some time to rebuild the muscles. Therefore, with time, you can get back the mobility. You must have an active lifestyle. It will prevent many diseases including muscle wasting. Preventing it is simpler compared to treating the condition. But, once it occurs, you need proper medical assistance. With physical therapy, adequate nutrition, and passive movements, you can get back the muscle mass.
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